Posted on: January 21, 2013
“Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law. For if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”-President Barack Obama
“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent. ”-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” -2013 Inaugural Address
“…But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future.”-2013 Inaugural Address
“We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth. ”
“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity. ”-Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals. ”-Martin Luther King, Jr.
Posted on: January 14, 2013
Last night Jodie Foster came out at the Golden Globe Awards.
This, of course is nothing new to the world and as she said in her speech, it’s nothing new to people who know her. She spoke from the heart, and in circles a bit, but she emphasized the need for privacy, the desire to keep her private life private and separate from her public persona.
I already did my coming out about a thousand years ago, back in the Stone Age. In those very quaint days when a fragile young girl would open up to trusted friends, and family, coworkers and then gradually, proudly, to everyone who knew her. To everyone she actually met. But now, apparently I’m told, that every celebrity is expected to honor the details of their private life with a press conference, a fragrance and a primetime reality show. You guys might be surprised, but I’m not Honey Boo Boo child…
If you had been a public figure from the time you were a toddler, if you had to fight for a life that felt real and honest and normal against all odds, then maybe you too might value privacy above all else.
Jodie’s heart-felt speech brought tears to the eyes of many of the celebrities in the room and I personally felt a bit choked up, it was truly beautiful. Over on Twitter, though, I got into a different sort of conversation. One of my followers and I chatted (in 140 characters or less) about my feeling that celebrities should always come out and her feeling that even though they’re celebrities, they don’t owe us anything.
Her thoughts were that celebrities don’t owe us intimate details of their lives, that family struggles around LGBTQ identity are real even for celebrities, and that celebrities like Jodie Foster make a name for themselves by their body of work, rather than their sexual orientation. My feelings are that in our celebrity-obsessed world where children aspire to be a Kardasian or an NBA player rather than a firefighter or the President of the United States, there’s a bit more responsibility there hasn’t been before. The shunning that happens to an actress or singer (looking at you, Queen) who is assumed to be gay or who comes out as gay isn’t as harsh as it is. Having the visibility matters, therefore the most visible people in our society owe it to us to come out.
We had the sort of conversation you can only have over Twitter where you listen to the other person’s opinion in earnest and hope that they hear you too. I didn’t walk away from it feeling angry or upset, but I did contemplate it all night. The follower said something that I keep turning over in my head. She said that the term “should” is a big word. And I agree with her.
In my opinion LGBTQ celebrities should come out in a public way, definitely in their own time (Ricky Martin, Jodie Foster), but that they should, nonetheless do it.
What do you think? Should LGBTQ celebrities come out? Do they owe it to the rest of us?
Posted on: January 13, 2013
While enjoying my first glass of wine at a bar in La Guardia Airport before my flight to New Orleans last week I got a Facebook message that I both expected and was surprised by. A friend who’d gone through the conversion process with me, currently living in one of the most Jewish neighborhoods in Brooklyn, was seriously considering an Orthodox conversion.
We’d been talking for a few months about the things we felt we lacked in our conversion; a more thorough understanding of Jewish prayer (benching and brachot were both initially foreign to us), better grasp of Hebrew, better understanding of Torah and Talmud, a better understanding of kashrut.
While I’ve tried to work on these things individually-I’m months behind in Daf Yomi, but trying, I’m learning Hebrew, I work within prayer that fits into my life (Modah Ani and Sh’ma), I continually re-define an idea of “kosher” – I know that full understanding only happens with full immersion. While I live in a Jewish home with mezzuzot in every doorway and stacks of Jewish books, she’s living a fully integrated life in Jewish Brooklyn.
These fleeting moments of Orthodox conversion usually come to mind for reasons of “legitimacy”, as a safety net, and for my kids. I make a list of pros and cons and the cons always stack up higher than the pros. I struggle with the idea of what Gd wants, the audacity to presume to know what Gd wants, and being honest with the realities of the life I share with my partner and what I am capable of doing.
Sure, if I really committed, I could observe a full Shabbat-but that would mean scolding my partner for turning on a light and/or putting her in a position that she is unfamiliar with, not comfortable with and frankly doesn’t (and shouldn’t)concern her. It would be adopting a cooking style and kitchen that only works for me and not for us. Can two people really live in a home together with varying levels of Jewish observance? And to that end my Jewish journey is, and never has been, about her and I never want it to to conflict with how she identifies as a Jewish woman. Furthermore, an Orthodox conversion could mean either lying about my sexual identity, or hiding it, therefore hiding an important part of who I am. It would mean committing to all 613 mitzvot, when I’m not sure I can make that commitment.
Despite all of this, it’s no secret that I’ve often considered doing an Orthodox conversion and I’m envious of those who have the chutzpah to do so. It takes a lot to commit to a practice, a lifestyle, a community that varies so differently than the practice, lifestyle and community that you’ve come from. The idea of changing the way you eat, dress, pray, live is a commitment that should never be taken lightly. And for those who not only make that commitment, but stick to it, I tip my hat.
The fact remains that I can daven in any synagogue I choose. The fact remains that I am a Jew. And the fact remains that my Jewish journey is always evolving.
I’m happy for my friend and wish her all the best. I’m curious about her process and I’m curious to see what her life will be like in a few years. I’m excited to learn from her and I’m excited that she’s another black Jewish woman committed to Ahavat Yisrael.
Posted on: January 8, 2013
I’ve just returned from New Orleans, where M had an interview. On the first day, while she interviewed, I wandered around the French Quarter looking for lunch and a drink. On suggestion from the desk at the cute, rustic boutique hotel we stayed in, I went to a place called Stanley’s in Jackson Square for their Stanley’s Eggs-which was Eggs Benedict topped with Nawlins fried oysters.
Oh yeah, it was a treif trip. More on what I ate later.
After my treiftastic eggs, coffee and mimosa I wandered around the Quarter and the surrounding neighborhoods by myself. While I understand that judging New Orleans based on the Quarter is like judging NYC based on Times Square, it still had a warm feeling. As I walked on the outskirts of the Quarter on the quieter streets I felt at ease, I felt comfortable, I felt like I could live there.
Around 2 PM M returned to our hotel and we both agreed we could live here.
We spent the next few days walking around the neighborhoods of New Orleans, looking at real estate prices, and researching the Jewish community. And while the Jewish community seems to be small, but mighty, the idea of being a black, gay Jewish woman in New Orleans is frankly incredibly scary. Especially when you’re a black, gay Jewish woman who wants to start a family.
For starters, New Orleans is the only city in Louisiana that has same-sex domestic partnerships…and that’s it. Nothing else happening down there. They don’t recognize same-sex marrriages from other states. Hell, you can get fired in the state based on sexual orientation. There’s no second-parent adoption, and no rights for LGBTQ individuals. The list goes on and on…and on and on.
So why are we thinking about it? First, there are greater opportunities (big fish, small pond). It’s more affordable, year-round gardening, small-town feel, and the idea that we can really make an impact are all really attractive. Schools are also a lot more affordable and I’m thinking about returning to school as well. Oh, did I mention how affordable it is?
So are we moving to New Orleans? I’ll follow up in February.
Posted on: January 2, 2013
I hope everyone had a fun New Year’s Eve! M and I have been sick (still). She’s running a fever and I can’t shake this cough. Which basically means that we spent New Years on our couch watching television which I’ve got to say, was not a bad way to spend the evening.
We’re already 2 days into 2013 and I’ve got to say I’m not mad at 2013.
Over on my Tumblr I set these intentions for 2013:
here’s to not looking back
here’s to taking chances
here’s to believing in myself
here’s to seeing the beauty in everything
here’s to loving more passionately
here’s to listening to my own voice
here’s to following my heart
here’s the babies and family
here’s to love in all its forms
How about you, any intentions, reflections or resolutions for 2013?
Posted on: December 29, 2012
I hope those of you who celebrate enjoyed your Christmas holiday! I spent the holiday with M’s family in Texas. I wish I had more to report, but unfortunately on the third morning I woke up with a terrible hacking cough, stuffy nose, clogged sinuses and a terrible headache. I’m back home in NYC and am happy to report that I’m better…but not 100% yet. I’m still waiting for United to deliver my lost bag…but things could be worse, right?
I’ve been a bit disconnected from reality, but there have been some awesome things happening in the world that I wanted to share.
Black, Gay and Muslim
If you’ve liked me on Facebook then you’ve already seen this amazing documentary about gay Muslim women of color in Atlanta, GA. I’m not sure when it will be released in full, but I can’t wait!
More exposure-Black Jews in NYC (not Hebrew Israelites)
This week’s New York Magazine features several of my friends who are, surprise (not surprise), not converts. It’s simple-Jews represent all cultures, nationalities, races and ethnicities.
I’d love to think that in 2013 that the idea of who is and who is not a Jew based solely on race will disappear. This, of course, will only happen through education. Thankfully I’ve been working really hard with the Jewish MulitRacial Network on some amazing projects to be released in 2013.
I’m also working on the JMN website so after the beginning of the year it will be under construction. If anyone has an suggestions or tips on website building please send ‘em my way!
Fighting Hate…Again in NYC
I recently wrote about that crazy woman, Pamela Geller, and her terrible, hateful Islamophobic ads in NYC. Thankfully, I’ve not seen any of them yet. I’m carrying around a giant Sharpie just in case. In other terrible news a Queens woman has admitted to killing a man ”because he was Muslim.” The man she pushed in front of a train wasn’t, in fact Muslim, but a Hindu man. I’m in shock. I can’t believe that this happens in the world.
Stay in touch!
I’m on Pinterest
I’m hoping to break 1000 followers and likes in 2013-will you help out?
Posted on: December 25, 2012
This Jew is in Texas. With her Jewish girlfriend celebrating…Christmas. It’s actually December 19th. I’m being smart and writing some scheduled posts in anticipation for my trip and the inability to get any writing done while I’m in Texas.
I have to admit, I’m feeling a bit excited about being near a tree.
M’s mother converted before marrying M’s father so there’s an entire side of her family that celebrates Christmas. While I’m very firm on a No Christmas Trees! I’m excited to have the opportunity to admire one. I’m excited to have Christmas dinner. I’m excited to sing some carols and I’m excited to open presents by the tree!
M didn’t grow up with a Christmas tree in her home, but always went to her grandmother’s home to open gifts from Santa. One one hand I feel remorseful that our children won’t get gifts from Santa…and on the other it’s nice to know that they’ll have them at my parent’s home and Inshallah at M’s grandmothers.
If you celebrate, Merry Christmas. If you don’t see a movie and enjoy the Chinese!
Let’s take a poll-Who’s celebrating Christmas today and who’s eating Chinese and going to the movies?
Posted on: December 24, 2012
When Hurricane Sandy hit I sprung into action. Unfortunately that springing action did a number on my back. The back strain combined with carrying my computer to work every day since the Hurricane has resulted in a slow healing process and unfortunately a lack of volunteering. B’H there are many people still out there doing the work of clean up, giving aid and supplies and helping the many people who remain devastated after the storm.
What compelled you to serve in the days after Hurricane Sandy?
Honestly, at first there was literally nothing else to do but help. There was no electricity in much of the city, and we couldn’t take the train to go anywhere. Because my house never lost power, my girlfriend and I watched streaming Sandy coverage on TV and saw the growing devastation. After two straight days we were like, “Okay, we have to do something.” So we got on our bikes and headed to the financial district in Manhattan – that is where we first saw how crazy everything was.
We logged onto the Occupy Sandy relief website and saw they were doing a supplies collection at a church in Sunset Park. We helped out there for a day taking in donations and sorting supplies. It was good to be doing that work, but we wanted to do something more hands on. So for the next three days straight we drove out to the Rockaways.
Posted on: December 18, 2012
Last year on September 10th Christian extremist, Terry Jones, showed up in Time Square wearing a shirt that read, “Everything I need to learn about Islam I learned on 9/11″. In a video just released by the New York Times yesterday passersby drowned out Jones’ hateful rhetoric by singing the Beatles Hit, “All You Need is Love.” Watching videos of people like Jones and Phelps makes me grateful that not all Christians are crazy, fear/hate-mongering fools like these two.
It’s folks like these that makes Ghandi’s quote about Christ more real. Ghandi said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Even after being rejected from a church because of his race Ghandi had an appreciation for the teaching of Jesus and was able to separate “true teachings” from interpretation.
Last night I got into a Twitter conversation, which is never a good conversation because really how much can you say under 160 characters, about Zionism and Judaism that got under my skin. I was participating in a Twitter counter protest about Pamela Geller and her new hateful, Islamophobic subway ads that have once again, unfortunately, turned up in NYC subways. I tweeted something like “Hate is not a Jewish Value, Hate is not a Muslim Value, Hate is not a Christian Value” and received two interesting tweets back.
Posted on: December 17, 2012
It’s impossible to know why terrible things happen, especially when they happen in horrific ways. I cannot imagine the pain, grief, devastation the community of Newtown, CT and the parents who lost their children are feeling. Words do not comfort and the pain is acute.
Throughout the weekend there’s been a rally to amend gun control in the United States, comparison of the gun deaths in the United States verses countries like France and Great Britain.
The President gave two moving speeches reminding us that these senseless tragedies occur in the quite suburbs of Connecticut and on the mean streets of Newark, Chicago and in my neighborhood in Flatbush. The deaths are tragic and the violence is senseless. But, very rarely do we get to hear the call for better and more accessible mental health services, a factor in all of these tragic deaths. Today, like many people, I read this eye-opening account of one mother’s struggles with her teen-aged son’s mental illness. In “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother” the author recounts many painful incidences where her son threatened his own life and his mother’s.
I can’t begin to comprehend what it’s like to love a child who threatens your life. I can’t comprehend the loss of a child, mother, father, sister, brother, neighbor by gunfire. I can’t comprehend how parents are explaining this tragedy to their children. I can’t even say if Gd’s hand is in any of this…because how could he let this happen. I can only pray for peace that brings understanding.
I continue to send prayers to the families in Newtown, CT and the families of everyone who have lost loved ones to gun violence and mental illness.